Ben Doherty in Sydney and Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Rome
The Catholic Church was more concerned with protecting its own reputation than helping victims of clergy abuse, and had a “predisposition not to believe” children who made complaints, Cardinal George Pell has told the royal commission into institutional responses to sexual child abuse in Australia.
“At that stage, the instinct was more to protect the institution, the community of the church, from shame,” he told the commission in Sydney via videolink from Rome.
On the first day of four scheduled days of evidence before Australia’s royal commission on Monday, Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, conceded the church’s handling of child sexual abuse in the case of paedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale was a “catastrophe”.
“I’m not here to defend the indefensible, the church has made enormous mistakes and is working to remedy those, but the church has in many places, certainly in Australia, has mucked things up, has let people down. I’m not here to defend the indefensible.”
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